Preparations

By Madeleine Cravens

I worry what it says about my character,
that I cannot picture the reality of sickness,
I just wake and read Whitman
and watch the sun on the brick 
of the next-door apartment.
I have three cans of chickpeas,
freezer-burned strawberries,
half a bottle of wine. You have
a stronger sense of the anthropocene. 
You buy soup, talk with your father. 
You know microbes are alive 
as they move across the grid.
And in France each small town 
has a street named for Pasteur, 
who made men dig drains,
convinced them to stop spitting.
I wash my hands with hot water.
I don’t want to be clean. What does it say
that I am fully on my knees to this,
that I admit such weakness willingly,
that should you want company 
after any of your transatlantic flights
I would take a cab immediately
to your red and burning door. 


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The World We Wanted Shone So Briefly

By Gail Martin

Featured Art: Cicadas by Scott Brooks and Wendy Minor Viny

Real life was finally about to begin.

Remember the romance of the silver cigarette case

in college? The integrity of your firstborn’s eyelashes?

 

We discarded alternate destinies like tired cards

in the Flinch deck.  We were only looking forward.

 

Of course, like the teeth of beavers and horses, there

are parts of the past that never stop growing.

Garage – tree house – vacant lot kinds of cruelty–

how we took turns being mean.

 

And later, some serrated evenings, dinners

of bluster and recoil, dodge. Flowers sent

or not sent to someone’s funeral.

 

Mostly there are the years you watch

your neighbors’ cars slide in and out of their garage.

Between blue herons and tumors, you change

the sheets.

 

We were all surprised to find ourselves old

but really the signs were everywhere, and we

acknowledge we’d been told. Name one

important thing that has not already happened.


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The Helms Man

By Kathryn Jordan

Featured Art: Creative Abundance Flower by Wendy Minor Viny

The Helms Man, we called him. I mean the man in white

baker’s trousers who drove the Helms Bakery van

around our bright California cul-de-sacs and streets —

coastal hills carved to asphalt, tract, and pink ice

plant that we broke open to write on sidewalks.

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The Pathologist’s Wife (or, When My Daughter Leaves the House I Will Go Watch Baby Sea-Turtles Being Born in Savannah)

By Jeff Tigchelaar 

Featured Art: American Gothic by Jason Douglas and Wendy Minor Viny

Volunteer vacations. That’s what

I’ll do, so help me. Go away

for a week at a time or two. You know, have fun,

help out. Save some

baby turtles. And I’m not going

to ask. It’s my money too. Money’s not

an issue. My husband’s

a doctor. Well not

just a doctor, my Lord: a forensic pathologist.

More of a scientist, really. He puts away

murderers. We’ve had – he’s had

death threats. We’re absolutely

not in the phone book. And he is

so addicted to his work. He’s always thought

he can just hand me money and

that’s it. Though, he does expect his

meals.

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Laywoman

By Jeff Tigchelaar

Featured Art: Blue Cat by Dar Whitlatch, Jason Douglas, Mallory Valentour

Evenings, let me tell you, are for

coming down. Going home and getting

into bed. Or slippers, at least. Yeah I’ve got bunny slippers

and there’s no shame in that. My only child

is insane. I don’t care who thinks

what about my PJs, either. I sleep

in a faded 4X orange and green T-shirt worn for years

by my father before me. So thin you can see my nips.

If you were looking, that is.

At the mercantile today I couldn’t stop thinking

about how I always just keep looking – nodding –

at Dr. Prajeet even when I haven’t

the slightest what he’s on about.

How hard would it be

– wink – just to say “Dr. Prajeet,

if you wouldn’t mind reiterating a bit –

you know . . . in laywoman’s terms?” Just ask him.

Laywoman, Dr. Prajeet. That’s me.

I wonder what I’d say if Dr. P. asked me

to elope. Off to some far land. Or even if he just asked me

out. Dancing, maybe. Here in town. I wonder what my little

Richie would think about that. If you don’t want mommy

coming home with doctors, don’t be a grown man living

with mom. Maybe I’d say that to old Mr. Ricardo.

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He’s Fine with a Little College (or, All Those Pups)

By Jeff Tigchelaar 

Featured Art: Atlas the Pup by Troy Goins and Mallory Valentour

College is for people who think

they’re too good to work.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m fine

with a little college, as long as it’s

in a Lego set, like.

But the kind with full-size

buildings and professors . . .

that right there’s a different sack of bait.

 

But you know what? Life’s like a dogsled team.

Unless you’re in the lead, the scene don’t change.

All those pups, yipping and chomping

to get ahead and be up front . . . but

the top dog’s been chosen from the start.

And that one mutt might not have to

have his nose up the asshole in front of him,

but guess what he’s got right behind him. A dog.

And another dog, and another and another. A whole

damn pack, and a few feet back there’s a sled

and you know who’s standing on that sled?

The man.

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Smart Girl

By Sydney Rende

Featured Art: Cicada by Scott Brooks and Mallory Valentour

My ex-boyfriend calls from Florida to talk about his pubes.

“Are they weird?” he asks.

We go to schools in different time zones. Over the summer he broke up with me on the patio furniture in his backyard. I cried into his lap. He carried me to my car, then went inside to eat dinner with his family.

Now he plays lacrosse on scholarship at a school with palm trees and a rape problem.

“Why would your pubes be weird,” I say. My roommate, Jenny, shuts her laptop and listens from her bed.

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Donna Was Not a Cat Person

By Halle Ruth

Featured Art: Chowder by Troy Goins

Donna forgot about the cat. She had promised to take care of it when her sister went on another one of her vacations. But the cat slipped to the bottom of Donna’s to-do list until he was barely hanging on, his presence barely noticed and left to his own devices, roaming her sister’s home on his lonesome. Donna did not want the cat staying in her own home, choosing to sacrifice the time it would take to drive to her sister’s to feed it every other day rather than let its fur coat her hardwood floors.  

She woke early that morning and decided to take advantage of the rare combination of a day off and unusually warm October weather to tackle the overgrown landscaping surrounding the house. At the beginning of summer, she paid a neighborhood kid to pull weeds and lay mulch, but the upkeep fell to her, and she hadn’t been particularly diligent about keeping the crab grass at bay. Her husband suggested hiring the kid again, but Donna refused. Everyone else in the neighborhood either cared for their yards themselves or hired professionals who drove around in logo-covered trucks that hauled riding lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, and leaf blowers. None of them cheaped out and hired a teenager to do a half-assed job to save a few dollars. It was embarrassing that they even hired him in the first place, like they couldn’t afford to do any better than that. Ella, who lived across the street, would have never done such a thing. Donna was sure of it.

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You Start To Grow Old

By Haolun Xu 

You start to grow old so fast, you notice how much you love home.
Home means a local mall, it means a place with a little Thai stand with all the world in the pocket.

You walk in with mystery.
People ask you with curiosity if you’re a student, if you work, if you have kids.

 You laugh with charisma. You say you’re looking forward to all your time in the world.
London, maybe, next week. But next week never comes. Today just has too much of you in it.

But you’re adventurous, right? You order a new thing everyday. A meal that can be held in your hands, it is the best part of your day. It’s the biggest pillar of your lunchtime.

One day, you have a beautiful combo. Pineapple and shrimp, rice and chopped veggies.
It’s perfect. It’s yours,

you eat it more and more each next month, every other day, every day. You gorge yourself in it,
you start to smile more and more each time,

they start to cheer whenever you come over. You ask, do you know me, and they say yes! of course we know you! They’re all so happy, you’re family now.

But they stop asking about London. They stop asking where you’re going,
they suddenly have all the jokes of a lifetime to tell you.

And they stop asking for your name,
they don’t need to know what it is to know who you are.


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Memoir: Sacred

By Shelagh Connor Shapiro

Featured Art: Birds by Jonathan Salzman and Tibetan Monks visiting Passion Works Studio

Ohio 

We sit in the car, my mother and I, outside a large white barn with black trim. It’s a pretty barn—less than a mile from our home—and my sister Maura keeps her horse here. The horse is Culotte. His previous owner called him “Just Cool It,” but Dad said that was too much of a hippy name. He is a proud Republican. During the last election, I picked up one of the dropped campaign buttons outside the voting booths. You aren’t allowed to wear the buttons inside. The vote is private, sacrosanct. 

We have stopped, as we do each morning, for Maura to feed Culotte. In March 1972, I am nine. In five minutes or ten minutes, when Maura comes back to the car, Mom will drive me to the William E. Miller Elementary School. She will drive Maura to the parking lot of the A&P, where Mrs. Besaunceny and three other students meet every day to drive to Columbus School for Girls, an hour away. CSG has no room for me in the fourth grade class. I’ll join the fifth graders next year. 

Our breath is frosty in the car. I ask my mother to repeat her question.

“If your Dad and I ever got a divorce, who would you want to live with?”

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Second-Hand Tongue

By Tamara Miller

Once I bought a beautiful tongue at a second-hand store. It was an impulse buy; I probably paid more than it was worth, if it was even worth anything at all. After I got it home I felt a little ashamed and regretted my purchase. What did I need a second tongue for while my own just wasted away in my head, unused? But the thing about this new tongue was that it liked to wag. When my god-given tongue locked down tight against my teeth, this second tongue would start in, first about righteousness and then about salvation, until I realized something terrible: my new tongue had caught religion. It was a preaching kind of tongue, silvery and sly as the devil. I tried to silence it, with candy and pride and fear, the way you do with tongues, but it would not deviate from the path of righteousness it liked to march up and down my esophagus like a parade of Stormtroopers. Shut-up, I called with my other tongue. Please. Shut-up before someone hears us. Before someone realizes we are not who we say we are.


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Difference

By Sara Moore Wagner

Featured Art: Floating Guy, collaboration between Passion Works Studio (Athens, Ohio) and Colores del Alma (Chile)

When I used to read my son the book
where the outcast girl becomes friends
with the alligator, where they dance
in the sewer to the burt-burp of her
tuba, I would imagine he was the gator,
that one day he might find someone
to teach him not to put everything
in his mouth, to go into the water
where he’s meant to return—when
I read my daughter that book, suddenly
I see the girl, tiny soft body in the mouth
of the gator, being pulled down into the
swamp with her tuba blaring. And
the story has always been about this gator,
how he’s not meant to live in regular
society, how neither is the girl so they
find each other and even though he eats
all the local dogs, he leaves her alone
and she saves him. When I am walking
with my daughter downtown, a man
comes up to me and moves his hands
around in my face, gestures at
my daughter until I’m lying
on the sidewalk with my arms around her,
folding her into me like a pair of socks
in a suitcase, like a lolling tongue into
a mouth. And I’m yelling at the construction
workers come help me—and they do,
rushing out in their orange vests. And I think
in that book, these would have been the villains;
in that book, my girl would have risen and danced
for the man who wanted to pull her out of me
like a tooth, would have shown him how to live
in the civilized world, how to cover
his fangs, let them out at night when the slow
lull of the Ohio river takes them so far away
from her home, from her mother that he
thinks about his nature. How even this
little make believe world wasn’t built
for the girl. How even still, it’s my girl’s favorite
book. How even still, I read it.


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Iguana

By Jim Cole

Featured Art: Chameleon by Scott Brooks and Mallory Valentour 

The New Girl’s boss was fired. Then, her boss’s boss was fired.

People said her boss’s boss had, like, this vein of ore trapped deep down in his large body – imbedded, inscrutable. When he said Good morning that wasn’t usually what he meant. When he laughed it was not at what you supposed. Inside, he longed to fire you. 

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Memoir: I Went, Running

By Caroline Manring Featured Art: Bird by Emmett Reese

. . .as if loss were a fire he was purified in again and again, until he wasn’t a ghost anymore.

James Galvin, The Meadow

 

Running is the only thing that made sense to me after miscarrying at fifteen weeks pregnant. I had almost lost my own life as well, and spent three weeks in two different hospitals, linked by a trippy ambulance ride with an EMT who thought I couldn’t hear him singing along to U2. Pretty much everyone thought I was unconscious for much of my hospitalization. I wasn’t, of course, and between waves of Fentanyl I noted or hallucinated many searing moments, which, though warped by fear and pain, were still less bizarre than the daily life I had to get back to, eventually.

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Radiology

By Kim Garcia

Featured Art: Blue Horse by Susan Mays and Nancy Dick

Sitting on the x-ray dolly, gown fastened front to back,
steel girders propping the tracks of the x-ray cam,
resting in half-dark with a lead blanket
size and weight of a doormat over my belly
while the tech disappears behind the wall
and a light flashes blue and white,
then more waiting, every joint in need
of repair.
                   The cam floats over my body.
The tech touches me gently. He’s nearly bald
and pale in his scrubs. I sit up, hearing
a soft popping of cartilage as I swing
my knees over the side.  Knee-capped
by nothing. I am so poorly
designed and executed that one might call
this incarnation accidental, unintended.
And against accident, what can I do but keep
intending?
                    So, bless the half-hearted pinging
of the Philips logo saving the screen.
Bless the lead aprons and blankets,
the plastic stretcher board hung
on hooks on the wall, the stacks
of towels and plastic gloves, the cream
and cocoa checkerboard tiles, the tech
with his soft hands in this cheerful wing
that promises nothing
                    the lame will not walk
                    the deaf will not hear
but more light
to see our suffering by.


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